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Tim Foolery

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Tag Archives: Star Alliance

Singapore Weekend By The Numbers: Was it Worth It?

A weekend in Singapore? From Chicago? That’s utterly crazy, right? Most people would think so, but not me. I love and adventure and I love to spend miles and points on truly unique experiences. If you haven’t read about my Singapore Weekend yet, you can do so by starting here.

Here are the critical numbers on the trip:

  • Time Spent in Transit/Flying: 44 Hours
  • Time Spent in Singapore: 68 Hours
  • Flight Segments: Five
  • Number of Airlines Flown: Three
  • Total Miles Flown: 20,300
  • Michelin Starred Restaurant Meals: Two
  • Airlines Miles Redeemed: 160,000 (United Mileage Plus)
My route to Singapore

So, was it worth it? Absolutely. I loved the journey to and from Singapore and I had a blast while exploring the City for the first time and can’t wait to return.

What do you think? Am I nuts for spending 160,000 United Miles for a long weekend on the other side of the planet? What crazy trips have you taken?

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United’s Historic Route Announcement

Earlier I wrote about how United Airlines teased us yesterday with the promise of an “Historic Route Announcement” coming today.  I put out my hopes and thoughts on what this announcement would be.  You can take a look at that in more detail here.  

Just after 11am central time today, United Airlines’ CEO Oscar Munoz made good on his promise and here’s what we found out.  United will be expanding service at San Francisco (SFO), including:

  • Toronto, Canada (YYZ) – NEW SERVICE
  • Melbourne, Australia (MEL) – NEW SERVICE
  • New Delhi, India (DEL) – NEW SERVICE
  • Seoul, South Korea (ICN) – INCREASED FREQUENCY
United Airlines
United Airlines

Well, I don’t know if I would call this historic.  I wouldn’t even call it interesting, honestly.  Three of these routes are already served by Star Alliance Partners: Air India to New Delhi, Air Canada to Toronto and both United and Asiana  (and Korean) fly between Seoul and San Francisco.  The only thing new here is a Star Alliance flight between SFO and MEL, which currently is only operated by Qantas.

Marginal increased frequency (assuming the Star Alliance Partners don’t reduce their frequencies in light of these coming on) at a United Hub.  Great.  

So if you take a look at my predictions, I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Chicago is still the red-headed step child. United Airlines still doesn’t serve Africa.  I guess this is why I’m a casual observer and not in the airline industry.

Were your predictions right on or were you as off base as me?

United Makes “Historic” Route Announcement!

Yesterday, United Airlines teased us with an “Historic Route Announcement” that would be coming out today.  The AV Geeks around the internet were abuzz with the possibilities.  The announcement read:

United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz will host a media conference call tomorrow to discuss an historic package of new and expanded international routes and talk about how they are a capstone to a breakthrough year for United.

This package of new and expanded international routes, really piqued my interested.  As a United guy who lives in Chicago, I’ve felt like the red-headed stepchild lately.  We did get the first Polaris Lounge, which is a great improvement over other offerings, but we still don’t have any regular 787 service from O’Hare and our reach to Latin America is limited.

United Airlines
United Airlines

What I Want:

I would love to see addition services from O’Hare – here are my dream new destinations:

  • Sydney (SYD)
  • Singapore (SIN)
  • Bangkok (BKK)
  • Johannesburg (JNB)
  • Buenos Aires (EZE)

Now, I have done no real research on these routes from Chicago.  I do know that Delta’s ATL-JNB route is quite profitable.  These are all very long flights that may not make much sense if you can’t fill the plane with cargo and passengers, but I’m selfish.  I want to visit (or revisit) each of these cities and I’d love to have a non-stop option from home.

What I Think Will Happen

What do I really think will be announce?  I think Chicago will be shut out and we’ll see a big announcement about more services at Dulles.  The new Polaris Lounge was just announced recently and I wager that we’ll see United announcing flights from Dulles to:

  • Johannesburg (JNB)
  • Accra Ghana (ACC)
  • Addis Ababa (ADD)
  • Abu Dhabi (AUH) / Dubai (DXB)

I think United is going to double down on Dulles and the historic announcement will be the carriers return to Africa and adding new destinations.

What do you think is on deck here?  How crazy do you think I am with my hopes and thoughts here?

Austrian Airlines Business Class VIE-ORD

After leaving the lounge, I made my way to to my flight. I love Vienna airport. It is quite small, but has lots unique destination, like Yereven, Lviv and Tehran. As I arrived at the gate and we were herded into two seating areas: Business Class and Economy. Boarding commenced shortly after the planned time.

Teheran Gate at Vienna Airport
Maybe I will go to Tehran after all
Austrian Airlines Boeing 767
My ride to Chicago. Austrian Boeing 767

Boarding

The surprisingly unorganized boarding process had passengers rushing the podiums trying to board first. The young Austrian employees looked quite overwhelmed by the confusion that ensued. I sat back until it was all sorted out. I usually want to board and get settled early in the process. but not when it is mayhem.

Once I reached my seat 7A, I stowed my hand luggage and settled in for the 10.5 hour flight to Chicago. I’ve taken this flight several times before and just love the service and the experience in general. I almost always attempt to speak German exclusively whilst on board. Two and a half years studying in college gets me along well enough on the plane and in hotels.

The woman sitting across the aisle from me was in a mood. I could tell that she would be awful from jump. As the Purser walks around and introduces herself to all Business Class passengers, this woman continuously rang her call button. First she couldn’t find her amenity kit – it was immediately in front of her.  Secondly, she wanted the different amenity kit (the pouch, not the shoe bag). Then she wanted to know the flight time. This is all within 10 minutes of boarding. Dozens of people heading to the economy cabin filed past us.

The chef made her rounds next. After handing out menus she returned and talked to each of us about the service. Austrian uses DO&CO for their on board offerings. They are my absolute favorite airline catering group. I selected the Viennese Tafelspitz for my entree.

As boarding continued, I had a couple glasses of sparkling wine and bookmarked the various programs on the In Flight Entertainment (IFE) System that I wanted to watch on this trip. Bookmarking the shows and movies you want is a great feature that most other airlines don’t do. It saves a ton of time on the flight.

Windowless Business Class Seat on Austrian
My windowless Business Class Seat on Austrian
Windowless Business Class Seat on Austrian
Alternate angle – Business Class Seat on Austrian Airlines.

The doors closed and we pushed back two minutes early.  It was a short taxi and a quick take off. Before I knew it, we crossed 10,000 feet and the flight crew sprung into action.

On Board Service

The crew delivered an additional glass of sparkling wine along with warm nuts. After the table was set and the appetizer trolley rolled out. I do love selecting from the half dozen different items available. The seat side plating is a nice touch. It seems much more personalized and less factory style service.

The rest of the meal was served with efficiency, but like every other time I’ve flown Austrian, the meal takes the right amount of time. It isn’t hurried, nor does it drag on for too long.

Catering on Austrian Airlines - Antipasti from the Trolley
Antipasti from the Trolley
Catering on Austrian Airlines - Creamy Carrot Ginger Soup
Creamy Carrot Ginger Soup
Catering on Austrian Airlines - Viennese Tafelspitz on Austrian Airlines
Viennese Tafelspitz on Austrian Airlines
Catering on Austrian Airlines - Cheese and "Exotic Fruits" from the Trolley
Cheese and “Exotic Fruits” from the Trolley

The woman across the aisle from me continued her shenanigans. Her entree was delivered and she ate nearly three-quarters of it. Then she rang for the flight attendant, complaining that it wasn’t good and she wanted another option. She did this twice. Finally, her third entree was taken from the pre-arrival options. This loud, brash woman, consumed most of three entrees. The crew couldn’t have been nicer or more accommodating. This passenger was awful.

After the meal, I turned on a movie and decided to take a little nap. Hell, it is vacation, right?

The rest of the flight was lovely and uneventful, until….

Pre-Arrival

As the pre-arrival meal was being prepared, the woman across the aisle, who was served long before me, pulled the same game with the food. She ordered, ate and returned two entrees. She finally settled on the third being to her liking. All before I was served.

That’s where Austrian really failed. There was no more food for me. Not saying they didn’t have a choice for me to select from, there was absolutely no more food available.  It was quite surprising.  I asked for a snack from the Economy Cabin and was told that they ran out of food in the back too.  There was nothing at all left on the plane for me to eat.

When flying coach, I usually skip the pre-arrival snack as it is just not worth the time or energy, but usually in Business Class, there is something worthwhile.  What really angered me, was that if this woman hadn’t eaten multiple entrees at each seating, I would have had something to eat.  Austrian should have served all passengers before replacing meals, don’t you think?

We land at O’hare and arrive at the gate 15 minutes early.  Unlike most of the flights on this trip, I was ready to get off this flight.  I wasn’t tired of flying or the overall experience was bad.  I was just frustrated with my fellow passenger and didn’t want to deal with her any more.  

My trip around the world came to an end as I quickly walked to customs and the Global Entry Kiosks.  One of the reasons I love O’Hare is that you go from sitting in your seat on board the flight to the taxi line at the International Terminal in less than 10 minutes. 

Have you flown Austrian Airlines Business Class before?  How many times has the Airline ran out of food?

Lufthansa First Class Amenity Kit

I love Airline Amenity Kits.  A Lufthansa First Class Amenity Kit made it’s way to me – after some issues on Austrian Airlines forced a flight change.  Amenity Kits are really hit or miss nowadays.  You’ve got airlines like EVA and Thai who still offer the beautiful Rimowa kits and then you’ve got United who will sometimes provide a tin.  The sign of a good amenity kit for me is two fold: 1) The design itself and it’s reusability and 2) The contents and their immediate usefulness.

The Kit

I love to reuse an amenity kit.  Currently, I’m using a simple Lufthansa Business Class kit to house my various cables while traveling.  It’s compact, sturdy and strong.  The current First Class Amenity Kit is quite a bit larger and is in a strange quasi-heart shape.  The two-toned color looks good at day one, but I’m sure with regular use, the light suede will really start to show the wear.

 

Lufthansa First Class Amenity Kit

The quasi-heart shaped First Class Amenity Kit.

As you can see there is a folding snap in addition to the proper zip closure.  The flap appears to be just decorative, which I don’t care for.  It is just another piece to get in my way or get damaged.  It does add a nice aesthetic though.

Lufthansa First Class Amenity Kit

Sunburst detail on the flap.

The Contents

Like any good amenity kit – either in First Class or Business Class, I think you’ve got to have an eye mask, ear plugs and socks.  Those are the absolute bare minimums, otherwise it’s just a complete waste.  This kit included those items, of course, and they were quite nice.  The eye mask included a velcro adjustable strap and the mask itself was quite broad, easily covering the area around my eyes.  The earplugs were pretty standard, but they came in a great little carrying case.  I think this case was pretty useless, but I thought it really upped the presentation.  The socks were traditional thin airline socks, but they were much longer than normal – traditional sock size.

In addition to the minimum requirements, this kit also included a plastic shoe horn, a compact brush and la prairie moisturizing creams.  The brush isn’t at all useful for me (have you see a recent picture??), but I love the shoe horn – I keep one in each of my suitcases, backpacks and briefcases.  They are strong, compact and lightweight – you can always use a shoe horn.  The moisturizing creams were pretty creamy and smelled fresh, but they took a while to properly absorb into your skin.  I felt a little greasy.  Nice effort – use these before you pull down your eye mask and take a nap.

Lufthansa First Class Amenity Kit

The contents of the kit – even tied so elegantly with ribbon.

Lufthansa First Class Amenity Kit

The kit, fully unpacked.

Lufthansa First Class Amenity Kit

The interior of the heart-shaped amenity kit

The Results

The contents were spot on for in-flight use, but the kit itself missed the mark for reuse.  It was a bit too big for what I would use it for, plus that extra flap just frustrated me.  After a few weeks of traveling, I am confident that the light brown suede would look a bit dingy.  So unbecoming of a lovely First Class Amenity Kit.

What do you think of this kit?  Do you like to reuse the Amenity Kits you get whilst traveling or do you leave them behind?  What other purposes do you task you kits with?